I have always enjoyed air travel. I especially love the feeling of adventure (& the little meals & movies). I am going to share with you, my tips for flying with kids, so that air travel can still be fun. Granted, it’s not the same as flying pre-kids, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. The whole family can enjoy the flight!
We recently returned from a wonderful vacation to the U.S. The flight time from Ireland to NYC is 7 & 1/2 hours. The return flight is around 6 hours. I have three kids aged 8, 5 & 2. Are you doing the math?
3 Kids x Many Hours in a Confined Space = Potential Disaster Situation
Happily, we had a fantastic flight – both ways! The kiddies were so happy! And that in turn makes everyone happy!
Cuddle Fairy’s Top Tips for Flying with Kids:
1. Pre-flying: Tell your kids a few weeks ahead of time that they are going on an airplane.
– Let them know what’s expected of them on the flight & in the airport. I told my kids how important it was for them to listen, do as they are told, hold hands & be patient. We went over what was going to happen many times, in a very positive & upbeat way.
– Tell them the fun things they can do on the plane. I allowed my kiddies to watch as many movies & play as many games as they wanted for the flight. I also had little toys packed for them. Getting drinks and meals served on little trays counts as fun things too! It’s exciting & new.
– Explain about the process – checking bags, going through security & that there is a lot of waiting around. We read Peppa Goes on Holiday & Kipper, Going on a Plane books several times before traveling. Both books show the characters going through the process of traveling (packing, security, flight, hotel), which helped the kids understand what was ahead of them.
– Here are our three kiddies at the airport. They were so excited to board the plane!
2. Bring carry-on bags small enough to fit under the seats in front of you. This way all of your kids things are easily accessible at all times during the flight.
3. Pack sippy cups for the plane. This is critical! The little plastic cups they hand out are not kid friendly. Those things are just asking to be spilled! I packed a sippy cup for our daughter & sports bottles for the boys.
– Pack cups that don’t leak & are non-spill.
– You can fill the sippy cups after going through security and/or wait for the beverage cart to come around on the plane. The flight attendants were very good about filling the kids cups. On the flight over, the flight attendant filled them for me. On the flight back, the flight attendant gave me cans of juice for me to fill them myself. Either way worked for me! Having our own cups saved so much worry & hassle.
4. Keep the kids drop down tables free from toys or wrappers while they are eating. Those trays are slippery & can fall off easily, especially if there are extra items in the way.
5. If lunch or dinner is offered on your flight, you can order special kids meals (check with your airline). On our United flight, the kids received chicken nuggets, chips (fries), beans, yogurt, a roll & two cookies for their dinner.
6. Save any uneaten food such as the roll, piece of fruit, or dessert. The kids might get hungry in an hour and it’s nice to have something available. Also, pack some of your own snacks as back up. If you pack anything pureed for baby, that’s above the approved size, it has to go through extra security measures at the airport (been there, done that).
7. Save any clean napkins & have wipes packed – they are life savers! I also pack sanitizing wipes.
8. Pack a plastic bag or two for rubbish/garbage during the flight. This really comes in handy!
– After preparing each child’s meal, I put all the wrappers in a bag that I kept in the back pocket of the seat in front of me. It saved having wrappers all over the place. Plus, it was handy to dispose of used wipes, napkins & other rubbish.
– Keep the bag in the seat pocket until it’s full, then give it to the flight attendant when they collect the rubbish. It’s handy to have a second bag. A nappy/diaper disposal bag works great too.
– Below is my dinner tray, drinks & the plastic bag full of wrappers in the pocket in front of me.
9. Have lolly pops, chewy mints & gum for take off & landing (age depending). Sucking or chewing helps sore ears. My 2-year-old drank from her sippy cup for relief & that worked really well too.
10. Make sure you have chargers for your electronics. United and other long distance carriers often have outlets below the seats so you can charge up and keep the kiddie entertainment rolling.
11. Carry on your child’s favorite soft toy. This is a lovely comfort to the child, helps them to nap & also ensures the special teddies arrive safely & don’t get lost or delayed in baggage.
– The flight home to Ireland is overnight. Our 5 & 2-year-olds slept for a few hours. Having their seats tipped back, their teddies from home & the blanket & pillow provided helped them to settle. They thrashed around a lot but slept through it all. The 8-year-old was too busy watching movies to sleep (lol). He tried a few times but couldn’t relax. He had a good sleep on the car ride home instead.
12. Sit near a restroom. Check out the plane’s seat map to see where the restrooms are located. I prefer sitting at the front of the plane whenever possible. It saves getting stuck behind the beverage/dinner cart and it’s a shorter run when a child needs to go to the potty.
13. Pack things to keep the kiddies busy.
– We had magazines & sticker books.
– For little ones, I hide some very small toys a few weeks to a month before a trip & pack them. When the child sees the toys on the plane, they are like new again!
– This past trip I bought 3 large pencil cases, one for each child. I loaded them with old & new small toys, trading cards & treats. They came in handy while we were away as things to play with & also as a place to put new things they acquired.
– Electronics of all kinds – tablets, LeapPad’s, portable DVD players – we had them all! I usually limit the amount of time my kids can use technology, but on the plane they were allowed as much as they wanted. That worked a treat & they all loved their personal TV sets on the plane.
14. Have your expectations clear from early on & stick with them.
– The deal I made with my kids was unlimited TV, tablet, games, & toys for the duration of the flight. In exchange, they understood there was going to be a lot of waiting around & a very long time on the airplane.
– It worked out very well as (amazingly) none of my kids complained. If they asked how long before we got there or how long of a wait I answered that it was going to be a long time & they accepted that & continued to entertain themselves. Shockingly, they only asked a handful of times!
Overall, flying with our kids was a real treat. They were so good on the plane. I was really impressed with how well they did on this long flight. I think the main factors that helped them were knowing everything ahead of time, allowing them to watch kid movies & use their tablets, & having some toys, snacks & teddy bears from home. The main factors that helped me were having sippy cups for each of them, the garbage bag, wipes, hand sanitizer & sitting near the restrooms. I even got to watch a couple movies. Granted, I hit pause a good bit, but it was a very relaxing flight!
Have you traveled a long distance with your kids? Do you have any tips to add?